Christa Kelly, News Editor
Vector Marketing, a direct sales business known for its deceptive practices and exploitation of workers, was banned from tabling on campus following a resolution from Augsburg Day Student Government.
Vector Marketing, founded in 1981, is a company that sells CUTCO Cutlery. Selling over $200 million dollars of CUTCO every year, Vector Marketing relies on contracted workers to contact friends and family to buy their product. With 85% of their workers being college students, Vector Marketing tables frequently on campuses.
Working for Vector Marketing involves arranging meetings with potential buyers and showing them the product. However, Vector employees are not paid by the hour. Instead, they are paid a base amount for every meeting with a potential customer with the opportunity to earn a commission if a sale is completed. The lack of hourly wages, guaranteed pay and benefits concerns many people, and has earned Vector Marketing a reputation as a multi-level marketing scheme.
Vector Marketing acknowledges the controversy on their website, writing that “Vector Marketing is NOT a scam and we are upfront and transparent about the entire Vector sales representative hiring and onboarding process from start to finish.” However, they argue that, by definition, they are not a pyramid or multi-level marketing scheme because their contractors are not responsible for finding new representatives.
“Vector Marketing is a single-level, direct-to-consumer marketing company,” claims Vector on their website. “We belong to the Direct Selling Association, which is the national trade association for companies who manufacture and distribute goods and services sold directly to consumers.”
Senior Kelton Holsen, who wrote the resolution that led to Vector’s expulsion, disagrees. “Vector Marketing is an exploitative… blunt pyramid scheme.” They argue that, while Vector’s practices are different from traditional multi-level marketing schemes, they still “take advantage of those who work for them.” This has not gone unnoticed by the company’s employees. In doing their research about the company, Holsen found that Vector is the target of several class action lawsuits for violating labor laws related to training wages and to the business-contractor relationship.
“The end result is that you don’t make a lot of money for the hours that you’re working and they really take advantage of the people who work for them,” said Holsen.
Worse, according to Holsen, is that, despite their business practices, they were able to get an Augsburg tabling permit.
“When you’re an Augsburg student and you see an organization that’s tabling on campus and that the university has allowed them to be there, that gives them a certain level of trust,” said Holsen.
This situation concerned Holsen, who contacted ADSG’s Student Concerns Committee and drafted a resolution to ban Vector Marketing from campus. The resolution passed with only two senators opposed, and the Events Office affirmed the resolution soon after.
Though Vector can no longer table on campus, there are more companies like them, and Holsen urges students to be careful to not fall prey to such schemes.
“The thing that’s really insidious about it is that they look and act like a legitimate company when they are trying to recruit.” Holsen noted a few ways that students can tell if a company is too good to be true, such as watching out for “unreasonable promises” and “get rich quick” language.
They also encouraged students to act when they see something on campus that they don’t like. “The process of getting this legislation passed… was astoundingly easy,” said Holsen. In total, the process took about three weeks. Holsen said that they felt supported during every step. “If there’s a change you want to see on campus, you are not powerless.”
This article was originally published in the October 11, 2019 issue.